With the release of War of the Planet of the Apes just behind us, it feels redundant to have yet another King Kong film appear in our Redbox distributors and movie rental stores so soon. However, throughout the two hours of Kong: Skull Island, you’ll be glad you picked it up.
For a film with such a large following, I feel as though I should air the dirty laundry of this one right off the bat. First, the costuming. Viewers have an opening scene circa-1930’s, where we see the ending of an air battle in World War II; this opener only includes two characters, plus Kong, so we don’t see any major time period issues in that moment. Fast forward through the timeline that immediately follows, and we are taken to a government building in 1973–but you wouldn’t have known without the date clearly shown on the screen. While the women are clearly dressed in bright patterns and bell bottoms, the men look like time travelers…from 2017. Tom Hiddleston, our main character, looks like an under-dressed James Bond meets Jurassic Park, and his look never changes. Unfortunately, this drew attention away from the time period, therefore creating a wrongful combination of time periods in the coming sequels to the film.
Next, it is only fair to evaluate the second most pressing problem with the film–its lack of gender diversity. Aside from hopeful extras in the background scenes early in the movie, the only woman that we come to know is Brie Larson’s character, Mason–an anti-war photographer. The personality that Mason has is impeccable; held to a high personal standard of sarcasm, rebellion, and compassion, you want her to be the center of attention among men with battle scars and a need to blood. Of course, just like most action movies released before DC’s Wonder Woman, our sole female character is practically one-dimensional–something we should have known by Larson’s near absence from all Skull Island marketing. Shocker. Throughout the duration, Larson has what feels like ten lines and one touching moment with Kong, but nothing to write home about. She finds a friendship in Tom Hiddleston rather than a romance, which was pleasing to see, but as a viewer and a reviewer, I am pleading with the screenwriter to provide more time on-screen for such an essential character to the film. One final note on this one: please stop allowing the military characters to mansplain war ideals to Mason.
“The world is bigger than this.” – Mason (Brie Larson)
‘”Bitch, please.” – Samuel L. Jackson
Y I K E S.
Let’s touch on those special effects next; at some points, they are so visually stimulating that they feel, for lack of a better word, fake. Recall the effects in Mad Max: Fury Road, which were beautiful to look at–so much so, in fact, that they were literally unreal. This is both a blessing and a curse for Skull Island; it is fascinating to watch, but it almost takes away from the appeal to the characters. There is one scene in particular that looks more like a painting than a movie scene, and it involves Tom Hiddleston and some extraterrestrial-looking, military-grade toxic gas. While the fan girl in me drooled a little, the reviewer was confused. With special effects that take away from the action, it almost feels like lack of confidence in film marketing. Filmmakers should not have to create marketing strategies within the movie to get by, and simple yet engaging effects will always be better. Less is more in action films. On a higher note, the movie monsters on the island and the stereotypical action elements (explosions, specifically) were beautifully done, and I was amazed by how realistic Kong looked, in and out of action-filled scenes.
Since the film’s characterization was about as basic as an island expedition action movie gets, I’m going to skip it entirely in this review and speak about something far more fascinating film connections, most of which were told to me throughout. For those of you who know of Heart of Darkness, or as most of us know it, Apocalypse Now, you’ll know that the author’s name is Joseph Conrad; in Skull Island, we find a nod to this author in Tom Hiddleston’s character, Captain James Conrad. Super rad. The most interesting piece of information that the film provides, however, is found at the end credits scene.
(Note to Legendary: If you want an end credits scene, make the credits fewer than ten minutes long. That was ridiculous.)
In the end credit scene, we see James Conrad and Mason sitting in a room with those super cool interrogation mirror-windows, and they are later joined by their previous companion from the island expedition. This companion, Houston Brooks (whose actor counterpart is most commonly recognized as Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton), informs the pair of the other dangerous that lurk beyond the bounds of human existence, going as far as saying, “This world was never ours.” This scene teases a new Kong v. Godzilla film, which would be the third installment of Legendary’s MonsterVerse; this new world-building began with 2014’s Godzilla, and will be forced to compete in the future with Universal’s Dark Universe, which began with the 2017 film The Mummy, featuring our favorite scientologist, Tom Cruise. (I chose not to review the film, because I was utterly disappointed in its execution.)
As an early set-up for a new world to be build, I believe that Kong, for the most part, did its job. In future films, I hope the writers and director choose to create more storyline and dimension for characters that will become part of a long-running franchise; stop monkeying around, and please write for the audience, not the box office.